St Ives Town v AFC Rushden & Diamonds
Pitching In Southern League Premier Division Central 18-04-2022
Six years ago these same two sides met on a Bank Holiday Monday at the same venue. The prize on that occasion was promotion to step three and it was Ives that ultimately claimed the victory on that fateful day. Move forward to today and once again the rewards for victory in this Easter Monday fixture in the sunshine are massive with the hosts needing victory to fully secure another season at this level and the visitors also seeking vital points to ensure their place in the end of season play-offs at the other end of the table.
As is the way in non-league football both teams had already played 48 hours before, each claiming important victories in their individual quests. Both made only one change to their starting line ups from the Saturday games. Ives replacing injured skipper Brett Solkhon with fit again Oran Jackson and Diamonds bringing in goal scorer from the bench on Saturday Connor Furlong in place of Lewis Johnson.
As on Saturday Ives were very fast out of the traps and Liam Cross got to the bye line inside the first 25 seconds. Dean Snedker in the visitor’s goal had to be similarly on his toes from the off to claim the low cross from the speedy winger just ahead of the lurking Nabil Shariff.
Jackson’s return after injury and illness proved to be very short lived as he went down with a knee injury as he cleared the first Diamonds attack of the game only just over one minute later. After lengthy treatment the unfortunate centre back had to limp out of proceedings to be replaced by Callum Milne. The like for like replacement at least meant no need for a major reshuffle for the hosts as Milne simply slotted into the middle of the back four alongside Ben Toseland.
Play settled down a little after that early excitement and the next attempt on goal did not come until 13th minute when Michael Richens seized an opportunity to drive forward from midfield and try his luck from fully 30 yards. Snedker was happy to watch the effort fly harmlessly over his crossbar. The visitors first opportunity arrived three minutes later when skipper Fernando Bell-Toxtle exchanged passed with Nathan Tshikuna before bursting into the box to get on the end of the return ball but the combined efforts of the covering Toseland and keeper Eddie Brearey quickly closed him and blocked his shot out for a corner. The resulting corner from the left was delivered deep beyond the far post where Ben Diamond had drifted into space. His header back into the box was turned home at close range by Jesse Akubuine but Diamonds joy was short lived as the assistant’s flag on the nearside was raised to cancel out the effort for offside.
Cross continued to cause problems down the right for Ives but without really managing to create any clear cut scoring opportunities. The closest that the hosts came to opening the scoring in the first half hour was a dangerous 28th minute corner whipped in from the right by Luke Fairlamb that glanced off the head of Jordan Graham inside his own six yard box and flashed inches wide of the post with Snedker beaten.
Ives continued to be patient in their build up and at times passed their way through the visitors back line. One such build up created another chance of a shot on goal for the hosts in 33rd minute. The flowing move was ended with Shariff feeding in Dylan Williams cutting in from the left. But the wide man’s run across the eighteen yard line ended with a wild shot that flew high and wide into the netting behind the goal.
As half time approached each side had one opportunity to get themselves on the scoresheet, both from dead ball situations. The first of those chances went the way of the visitors in 42nd minute when a Richens foul on Tshikuna 30 yards from goal allowed the Diamonds chance to load the box again. Once more the kick was directed deep to pick out Diamond beyond the far post but this time he directed his header straight into the grateful arms of Brearey. The hosts opportunity in the last minute before the break was much more clear cut and only denied by an excellent point blank save from Snedker. An in-swinging free kick from the left by Williams was cleanly met by Toseland arriving at pace. His well struck effort was bravely blocked by the keeper who spread himself well to ensure that the two sides went into the break level.
With this being a second ninety minutes in 48 hours in un-seasonally warm weather for most of the players one might have anticipated that the pace would drop off in the second period but that was not to be the case. As in the first half it was the hosts that came out of the traps quickest. The half was only two minutes old when Fairlamb went down the left and delivered a cross that only just eluded Ethan Johnston arriving at the back post. Seven minutes later a clever free kick involving Fairlamb and Williams ended with the former firing a shot into the side netting from just inside the box.
Both sides made a change on the hour. The host replacing the tiring Johnston with Nehemiah Richard-Noel giving the youngster his home debut. The visitors replaced the out of sorts Graham with AJ George. The Diamonds substitute almost made an instant impact as less than ninety seconds after his introduction he spurned a great chance to put his side in front. Starting the move in the centre of the park he picked out Diamond wide right who took it in his stride then burst forward before firing in a low cross that got right through the penalty area before it arrived at the feet of George 15 yards out. The youngster snatched at the chance firing high and wide with his first time effort.
The pace did not drop as both sides continued to go in search of a winner. A 67th minute mistake from Sam Warburton allowed Cross to get away again on the right hand side. The young winger outpaced the desperate full back to get to the bye line and picked out Shariff with his pull back to the near post. But the striker’s effort, although on target, lacked power allowing Snedker to make a comfortable save.
Another dead ball opportunity came and went for the visitors in 75th minute. Tshikuna seized an opportunity to run at the Ives back line from fully 35 yards out and he almost found a way through only to be taken down by a last ditch tackle from Fairlamb inches outside the box. The same player picked himself up and fired the free kick around the hosts five man wall but inches wide of the post.
Ives made another change one minute later replacing Shariff with the pace and trickery of Tyrone Baker. Similar to the introduction of George by the Diamonds this change had an almost instant impact as with his first touch of the ball only seconds late, Baker was sent tumbling by Diamond 30 yards from goal. Williams deep cross from the resulting free kick was powerfully met beyond the back post by Milne. His header rebounding out for a corner off the head of Liam Dolman. The resulting corner brought the decisive goal. Fairlamb’s in-swinger from the right was met cleanly by, a somehow unmarked, Richard-Noel on the edge of the six yard box his downward header giving Snedker no chance.
Now with their noses in front Ives were not about to give away any of those hard earned three points. They ensured that by cleverly retained possession wherever possible moving the ball around cleanly on the excellent 3G surface. The visitors only managed to carve out one chance of a shot on goal in the remaining time and that four minutes from the end of the ninety when Will Jones found a little bit of space on the left before teeing up George on the edge of the box, again the substitute seemed to snatch at the chance and dragged his shot wide of Brearey’s right hand post.
A second excellent performance in a row and a second clean sheet in a row for the first time this season ensured Ives best Easter return in a long time and earned it’s deserved reward of another season at step three. Diamonds were not as disappointed as they might have been at the final whistle as other results going for them means that they still have their play-off hopes very much alive and entirely in their own hands as a single point from their final game next Saturday will see them at least ensured of that vital fifth place. Ives can go to Tamworth where another win would see them match their best even finish at this level of thirteenth place.
Final Score : St Ives Town 1 AFC Rushden & Diamonds 0
ST IVES: Richard-Noel 78,
ST IVES: Brearey, Flanagan, Fairlamb, Richens (capt), Jackson (Milne 3), Toseland, Cross, Hottor, Shariff (Baker 76), Johnston (Richard-Noel 60), Williams, Unused subs: Solkhon, Osei-Bonsu
RUSHDEN: Snedker, Diamond, Warburton, Bell-Toxtle (capt), Dolman, Casey, Furlong, Akubuine (Diakiesse 87), Jones, Graham (George 60), Tshikuna, Unused Subs: Johnson, Hughes, Snelus
Supporters man of the match: Ben Toseland
Match Report by Nigel Howlett. Video by Dave Hook. Photos Louise Thompson.
Match Mascots – Buckden Juniors U9
|April 18, 2022
|Southern Premier Central
|St Ives Town
|AFC Rushden & Diamonds